Sony unveils new portable game console

TOKYO: Sony Corp showcased a new hand-held gaming device, the first to feature 3G wireless connectivity, as it battles with Nintendo’s best-selling DS and tries to fend off rising competition from smartphones and tablets.

The announcement came the same day Nintendo reported a 46 percent slide in quarterly profit below analysts’ expectations and cut its Wii and DS sales forecasts for the year to March. Nintendo launches a 3D version of its DS model next month.

Sony said the device, which it has codenamed “NGP” for Next Generation Portable, will go on sale around the year-end but did not provide any pricing details.

It will feature 3G wireless connectivity, the first in a portable games device, and use a 5-inch OLED touch panel, which compares with 3.5 inches for a standard smartphone screen. It also has a back touch pad and a motion sensor for more intuitive use.

“The key will be pricing of the device,” said Nobuo Kurahashi, an analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities. “If the company prices it cheaper than Nintendo’s 3DS, it would be positive.”

Nintendo’s 3DS will sell for 25,000 yen.

Sony also announced its would make PlayStation games available on other portable devices by the end of the year, through a system called PlayStation Suite.

With smartphones and tablets from the likes of Apple Inc eating into the market for portable gaming devices, Sony and Nintendo desperately need a blockbuster product to boost sales and profit.

Hurt by falling sales of its ageing DS ahead of the launch of the 3D-capable model, Nintendo’s October-December operating profit was 104.6 billion yen ($1.3 billion), below an analysts’ consensus of 118 billion yen.

Underscoring the tough competition, Nintendo cut its sales forecast for the Wii console to 16 million units from 17.5 million units for the year to March. It also lowered its DS sales forecast by 1 million units to 22.5 million.

Nintendo’s DS sold nearly 136 million units up to last September. Sony’s PSP has sold some 61 million.

The next-generation PSP may be closely related to a PlayStation phone that may be in the works.

If not announced this week, the PlayStation phone could be unveiled on Feb. 13 at a Sony Ericsson event in Barcelona.

Next week, Sony is expected to post a fall in profits for October-December, hit by its struggling TV business – arabnews